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Review: The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

June 26, 2009

The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

Irene Dos Santos is the new girl in school and Lily has been assigned to show her around.  The girls come from very different backgrounds.  Irene’s family is wealthy and she is given lots of freedom by her stepfather and gunrunning mother.  Her mother is rarely home and she doesn’t have much of a family life.  Lily comes from a family that is closer to being middle class, leads a structured family life and is close to her mother.  Despite their differences, the girls become best friends.

Irene is not the best influence on Lily and teaches her to French kiss when the girls are thirteen.  When one of her teachers tells Lily’s mother, the girl’s friendship is severed and Lily is sent to a Catholic boarding school.  The girls do manage to get together a few times through the years without their parents knowing about it.

A few years later, Lily is allowed to invite one friend on a family trip to the jungle.  When she chooses Irene, her family reluctantly agrees.  While on the trip, the girls go swimming in a lake but only Lily comes out.  There is no trace of Irene anywhere, and Lily doesn’t seem to have any memory of the event.

Fifteen years later, as Lily is about to give birth, she discovers an old letter from Irene and hopes to discover what happened to her old friend.

Since The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas is full of characters and is told in a non-linear fashion from different points of view, I had some trouble getting into it.  The writing is beautiful and the underlying themes of Venezuelan myths and revolution are fascinating, though, so I was quickly reeled into the story.   I would like to read more about Venezuela after reading this book.  The ending of the book, however, left me wanting, and kept me from totally loving the book.  I did enjoy it; I just didn’t love it.  This book is full of symbolism and I’ll readily admit that I didn’t understand all of it.

I found this post about the creation of the cover (which I love) interesting.

Margaret Mascarehnas grew up in Venezuela.  She is an American citizen of Goan origin and currently lives in Goa, India.  She will be on Blog Talk Radio on Friday, June 26 at 11AM Eastern time.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2009 6:28 am

    Sounds like an interesting read. I love it when a book inspires me to want to learn more about a subject!

  2. June 26, 2009 6:35 am

    I love the descriptions and getting into the character’s lives. I have about a quarter left to go so I am very curious to see how it all plays out.

  3. June 26, 2009 6:39 am

    It’s too bad the ending didn’t really do it for you but the cover is beautiful and the link you provided is most interesting. I know nothing about Venezuela either but is is wonderful when a book inspires you to search further. That’s how I felt when I read The Seamstress earlier this year. That book is a wonderful look at Brazil in the early 1930’s. The story line between the two sisters and their totally different lifestyles had me mesmerized until the last page. I still consider it to be one of the best books I have read this year.

  4. June 26, 2009 7:00 am

    Liked your review. It vetted my interest.

    Great cover too.

  5. June 26, 2009 7:06 am

    Sounds like an interesting book. Good review!

  6. June 26, 2009 8:11 am

    I think you did a good job of capturing how this book made you feel. I finished it yesterday and have so many questions and ideas about the book. I’m looking forward to the BTR show later today to learn more about this complex novel!

  7. June 26, 2009 8:29 am

    ooh I want to read this now. It sounds fabulous. I keep looking at the cover and thinking of Poison Ivy in the Batman films.

  8. June 26, 2009 9:20 am

    Good review. I’d probably be right with you on my opinion on that one!

  9. June 26, 2009 9:41 am

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of this in the Latino Book Month Giveaway. It’s high up in my TBR stack. Glad to know you liked it!

  10. June 26, 2009 10:13 am

    Nice review of an intriguing books. And yes, that cover’s a wow!

  11. June 26, 2009 11:34 am

    I would love to read something set in Venezuela. That cover is real pretty.

  12. June 26, 2009 11:46 am

    Great review. It looks interesting, but I’m not sure this one is for me!

  13. June 26, 2009 12:39 pm

    What a shame that the end detracted from the overall experience for you. As I read the summary I felt myself getting excited to add this book to my list but then once I heard the end was a bit lacking I’ backed away.

    Thank you!

  14. June 26, 2009 2:38 pm

    I’m always looking for novels set in South America – and I like the premise of this one.

  15. June 26, 2009 4:16 pm

    The cover and story sound lovely, but symbolism…not sure about that. I can’t afford to loose any more brain cells.
    Great review!

  16. June 26, 2009 4:49 pm

    You’ve definitely gotten me really, really interested in this one. Thanks for the great review.

  17. June 26, 2009 5:03 pm

    Venezuela is a country that I would love to visit also. I’m glad that you filled us in on the symbolism and having a hard time getting all of it—that is something I struggle with a lot!!

  18. June 26, 2009 8:00 pm

    First, isn’t it funny how close this title is to the author’s name in the post almost before this one? Anyway…

    too bad this didn’t totally work for you because the synopsis sounds intriguing!

  19. June 26, 2009 9:58 pm

    I just read about this one in the NY Times and jotted it down; thanks for the post.

  20. June 26, 2009 10:00 pm

    as i was reading your review, i was getting more and more interested in the novel. the premise sounds really good but i’m sorry that you didn’t love it. it’s always hard to write a review for a book that had promise but didn’t live up to your expectations. that said, you did a great job without discouraging others from reading the book. thanks! 🙂

  21. June 26, 2009 11:58 pm

    Since it’s summertime, I’m not sure I want to think that hard about symbolism. 😀

    What am I saying…that’s pretty much a year round affliction for me.

    It sounds interesting, but if you weren’t crazy about the ending, then, like Michelle, I’m backing away.

  22. June 27, 2009 3:13 pm

    Very nice review. I have been wondering about this one. I think I want to read it. Your review sort of helps to pick the right time to read it, you know, when I am in the right mood. Thanks.

  23. June 27, 2009 5:00 pm

    This sounds like an interesting book, but I’m sorry the ending didn’t ‘do it’ for you. Sometimes I, too, have a hard time getting into a book if it has too many people’s perspectives. I’d still like to check this one out. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

  24. June 28, 2009 2:26 pm

    Your review has me interested. I haven’t read anything from/or about Venezuela either and I should fix that.

  25. June 29, 2009 9:50 am

    This book sounds fascinating! I really want to read it after reading your review.

  26. June 29, 2009 1:38 pm

    Nice review Kathy. Sorry to hear you had some problems getting into this one. I had really wanted to read it as the story sounds so good. I have to say too that I love the cover.

  27. July 7, 2009 1:31 pm

    Sounds intriguing. Sorry the ending was a bit disappointing for you.


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